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Portman Held Up

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) has placed a hold on the nomination of Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for U.S. trade representative, hoping to get a vote on a trade bill.

[IMGCAP(1)] Bayh is working with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Phil English (R-Pa.) and Artur Davis (D-Ala.) on the Stopping Overseas Subsidies Act. The bill would require that the Commerce Department go after “non-market economies” like China for illegally “dumping” products in the United States at unfairly low prices in a bid to drive their American competitors out of business. Bayh wants Senate leaders to commit to a vote on his bill before he’ll release his hold on Portman.

Bayh emphasized that his action doesn’t mean he opposes the nomination. “He is qualified for the job, and if a vote is allowed on my legislation, I look forward to voting to confirm him for this important position,” Bayh said in a statement Tuesday. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was clearly not pleased. “Taking a hostage is not a productive way to do business, especially with a nominee for such an important position with clear bipartisan support,” said Amy Call, Frist’s press secretary.

Faster FOIA. Joining Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) efforts to expedite Freedom of Information Act requests, Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) have scheduled a press conference today to announce the introduction of the Faster FOIA Act.

The bill would establish a 16-member commission that would recommend ways to cut the often lengthy delays in processing requests. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) co-sponsored the Senate version with Cornyn.

The press conference will take place at 11 a.m. on the Cannon Terrace.

Smith also recently introduced a companion bill to Cornyn and Leahy’s OPEN Government Act, which is aimed at closing loopholes that many believe have decreased the law’s effectiveness in recent years. Cornyn chaired an oversight hearing on the FOIA on March 15.

— John Bresnahan and Suzanne Nelson

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